Depths of the Otherworldly Labyrinth
[Translator – Mab ]
[Proofreader – ilafy ]
Chapter 36: Two Groups Going Crazy
There was an old stone space at the bottom of the stairs.
Much like the 10th floor, that floor was simply an open space. Unlike the 10th floor, however, it was absent of magical flames. As Alti had predicted, it was a perfect space for my magic experiments, as it had zero vestiges of magic power.
It was optimal as spaces went, but there was one… problem, per se.
Two unfamiliar men were waiting idly in the center of the room. One was a good-looking man with immaculate golden hair who seemed a little older than I was. He looked like a silent, well-reserved knight. The other was an older man with grays mixed amongst his hair. He wore an ochre-colored cloak and had long, matted hair that he must have tended to a lot. A silver sword was visible through a gap in his cloak, so assumed that he was a knight as well.
I immediately focused on them.
Name: Hein Hellvilleshine
HP: 321/333, MP: 34/102
STR: 10.21, VIT: 8.95, DEX: 9.29, AGI: 11.88, WIS: 12.21, MAG: 7.77, APT: 1.98
Optimal Movement: 1.21
Wind Magic: 1.77
Holy Magic: 1.23
Name: Haups Jokul
HP: 253/282, MP: 0/0
STR: 4.41, VIT: 6.25, DEX: 11.72, AGI: 8.21, WIS: 13.41, MAG: 0.00, APT: 1.12
Armed Combat: 1.89
Holy Magic: 0.00
The blonde was Hein; the one with grays was Haups. Not only did both of them have high levels, but they were also knights with first-class abilities.
When I looked at them more closely, I realized something—the blonde one looked familiar. I was pretty sure he was the one who had gone to the Labyrinth with Lastiara on my first day. He hadn’t said much at the time and didn’t particularly stand out, but I was sure it was him.
I turned to Lastiara and told her there were people who knew her.
Lastiara shouted in surprise. In response, the two knights approached us and then bowed.
“We have been waiting for you, Ojou-sama.”
It was the blonde man, Hein, who spoke first.”
“Yes, it’s me, Hein. I have come due to my job.”
I knew it—he and Lastiara were acquaintances. But that Hein person, he put Lastiara aside and turned his attention to me.
“You’re that boy from before… I see, so you are our lady’s beloved.”
He murmured, “our lady’s beloved.” In short, the same kind of trouble as Radiant-san.
Hein-san’s face was calm when he looked at me, however. He didn’t glare at me like Radiant-san had, on the contrary, I could sense a kind of expectation in the glint of his eyes. I couldn’t tell what was going on in his mind.
Either way, I had to correct his misunderstanding first.
“No, I’m not really Lastiara’s—”
“That is right, Hein-san. Forgive me… I need to be by Christ’s side no matter what… I need to live together with him…! As you may know, my time is limited. Is it a sin if I want to spend what little time I have with the person I love so much?”
Lastiara spoke over me, trying to bury me when I tried to plead my case. She returned to the formal tone she used when we first met, and her fake lament was just that much more theatrical.
I knew she’d go and do that. I’d rather have avoided it if at all possible, though.
Hearing her words, Hein-san slowly pulled out the sword from his waist.
“Fuh… Your lies can no longer deceive us. However, be it for true love, be it for falsehood, or be it for your own enjoyment… our job does not change.”
“I am sad, Hein-san. Are you perhaps saying I am a liar? Falsifying love, a shameful thing it is…I would never do such a thing!”
Lastiara’s acting was so true to life that she even had tears in the corners of her eyes.
Hmm. Yeah, she was the one at fault, no doubt there. Inside, I would have liked to fully support Hein-san’s standing.
However, I needed to be calculating there. In terms of talent, Hein-san was inferior to Lastiara. Besides, from the looks of it, Hein-san seemed like the type to immaculately complete his job to the t, while Lastiara was more like a free spirit. If I had to think which one would be more useful to me, Lastiara was the obvious choice.
“Because of you indulging in this love, the higher-ups are in havoc. We cannot make any huge movements, and it will take a month of council just to decide how to respond to your sudden absence. Haah… Levant’s precepts can be troubling.”
“Aah… It must be because I chose the word Love, is it not? What a sad misunderstanding it has become…”
Apparently, Lastiara was making use of those Precepts or whatever to her benefit. That seemed to be what she referred to when she said there would be fewer pursuers if we established ourselves as lovers.
The more problematic thing was that I heard keywords I’d rather not hear, such as “higher-ups” and “one month of council”. Lastiara had said she wasn’t of great status, but from what Hein-san said, I had an inkling feeling she wasn’t just another sheltered young lady.
“Therefore, Ojou-sama, as a knight, I would like to request for you to return to the cathedral by way of a duel. We will not violate any of the precepts if we go by this procedure. Now then, Haups-san. Please.”
Hein-san called out to the gray-haired knight who had been stationed behind him. Haups-san came forward, a faint smile on his lips. This man looked a little bit mischievous.
“Gotcha. But Hein-kun, are you not going to do this yourself? I feel like this is more your duty.”
“This is no one’s duty but the entirety of the Celestial Knights’ executives. Not to mention, I need to have my eyes on our lady. We cannot lower our guard around her, after all. It has been only a few days since she went missing, but there is still the possibility that she has reached the same level as the Celestial Knights.”
“Well, it’s true that you’re more suited to keep an eye on lil’ lady… No other choice then. Hey, lady killer-kun. You, me, duel.”
And thus the hot potato was thrown back to me. I drew my sword as I gave my reply.
“Let me make it clear before we start. As far as I’m concerned, Lastiara is not my beloved or anything of the sort, but she is my companion, and thus I want to grant her wishes. That’s all.”
That was all I wanted to say. First off, when it came to love affairs and whatnot, the hurdle was big for me. I couldn’t act like Lastiara, and I wasn’t confident I could keep up with their conversation, so I made my standing that I was ignorant about the whole love affair thing.
“O-ooh… Got that. Cool aren’t we?”
When he heard that naive comment from me, Haups-san got awkward and told me I was cool. I’d rather have not been told that since it made me feel embarrassed was well.
Then, as I tried to hide how shaken I was, I continued.
“Also, I never wanted any duel in the first place.”
“Well, too bad. You don’t accept the duel, we keep hindering your exploration. We’ll chase you around even after you leave. Shameless, yeah, but it’s part of the job. Really sorry about that.”
Haups-san scratched his head. He showed no pretense, and he looked really apologetic about it. His face told me how much he found the ordeal a pain. Even so, I could certainly see a glimpse of professionalism in his eyes, the duty of wanting to carry out his mission.
If he declared that they would keep interfering anyway, then I needed to ward off the spark before I caught fire. I’d liked to have avoided it if possible, but it wasn’t possible, so I shifted gear and perceived it as no more than a sparring match.
“Seeing that you’re only doing your job, I can’t exactly criticize you for your choice of action. If this is the condition I need to fulfill to make Lastiara one of us, you must know that I am prepared to clear it…”
Having said that, I walked forward. It was time to start the sparring match. Even if I lost… well, that would only mean Lastiara would go back home. I wasn’t that inclined to win. Of course, I had no intention of losing either.
“It’s time to duel then. The match is on the lil’ lady. Well, it’s not like we’re gonna kill each other, so don’t worry.”
“Understood. I don’t want that either.”
Haups-san also drew his sword before we bowed to each other.
The exchange of vows took place on the Main Road, so the duel was pretty much legitimate.
The air between Haups-san and I grew tense.
“—Magic, «Dimension Gladiator», Magic, «Foam».”
If things went smoothly, I should get the victory.
Hein-san aside, with his ‘Status’, Haups-san had no hope of catching up with my speed. However, there was a ‘Skill’ called ‘Handicraft’ amongst his ‘Skills’. If that was something more than I thought it was, then my chances of winning would be a little bit less likely.
Bit by bit, Haups-san and I closed the distance between us.
I was in a neutral pose, amateurish. Haups-san wasn’t that much different—he faced his whole body to me, only naturally holding his sword in his right hand.
We continued inching closer until the both of us reached each other’s sword distance.
—Our swords flashed together.
We started our move at the same time. To my eyes, however, it looked like Haups-san deliberately matched his timing with mine.
Our swords struck each other on the same trajectory. The stone room was filled with the metallic sound of the blades colliding.
Then, the second strike flashed. Once again with the same trajectories, and the sound rang again.
Then the third strike, yet again our swords flew on the same trajectories. And the next, and the next, and the next one too. And then again, and again, and again and again, the same sound kept ringing—
Only then did I realize.
* * *
Translator - Mab
Proofreader - ilafy
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* * *
Haups-san’s sword style was to receive. While indeed he had some talent, he was by no means on par with Hein-san or Radiant-san. He didn’t have his own style of swordsmanship unique to him. What he could do was adapt to his opponent based on his accumulated experiences under his belt. Which meant that what he did was take his time and wait for an opportunity to counterattack.
Without haste, I increased the speed of my sword strikes. My opponent was vigilantly waiting for an opportunity to counterattack, so there was no need to hurry. What I should do was simple; exceed him, overpower him, show no gap, and not rush it—that was all.
Haups-san lacked base AGI. Although his finesse with swordsmanship was far superior to mine, «Dimension Gladiator» turned it moot. All in all, I had no reason to lose.
My sword flashed faster and faster. Haups-san kept on managing to keep up with me.
But soon, he hit his limits. What we were doing was essentially the same, but with such a difference in speed, the end would come sooner.
It didn’t take long until Haups-san failed to parry one of my strikes that ended up resting at his throat.
The sword fight that had taken quite long finally came to an end, what it left was only the echoing metallic sound in the empty stone room. I declared victory.
“Man, really…? I lost… Ah, sorry, Hein-kun.”
Haups-san raised both hands and declared his defeat, then he apologized to Hein-san as an afterthought. Seeing that, I returned my sword back to its sheathe.
“You did well, Christ. I expected no less of the knight I’ve always admired. What do you think, Hein-san? Christ the Knight has offered me his victory.”
Lastiara congratulated me on my victory, all ladylike.
Yup. Seeing her like that felt nasty. Hein-san responded to her without looking any less cheerful, though.
“Indeed he has. I guess we will have to retreat for today. Haups-san, come this way.”
“Hyup. My bad, my bad. Man, that felt like I couldn’t win head-to-head at all.”
Hein-san moved away from the center of the room and beckoned Haups-san to join him there. I guessed I could take it as him no longer wanting to block our path.
“Hm. It seems he has the minimum standard of strength.”
“Oi, oi. Defeating me is the minimum standard…? Even this old man can get hurt, you know.”
“This means we can leave the lady to Christ-kun for a little bit longer.”
Hein-san ignored Haups-san’s remark and turned to me. His eyes showed the same composure.
“Well then, Hein-san. Would you challenge my knight as well?”
“There is no need for that. Putting aside Haups-san, I have to model discipline and strictly adhere to the precepts, after all… Besides, it doesn’t matter whether this is an unrequited love for you, Ojou-sama, as it is still a proper romance. As an educator, I wholeheartedly support you.”
“I am glad that my zeal is conveyed to you, Hein-san. You have my deepest gratitude.”
Even though their mouths both spoke pleasantries, the sparks between Hein-san and Lastiara were as clear as day. Both were polite in their words, but neither let the other get the better of them.
It was just that. Haups-san then murmured “I’m being put aside? That’s cold,” from the side, and then became dispirited. I kind of felt like I could see his standing. He was supposed to be their elder, and yet he was their sandbag.
“It is different now that we know Christ-kun possesses ability on par with a Celestial Knight. The higher-ups will be relieved once they hear of this. Not to mention, Ojou-sama, it’s not like you are going to ruin the ceremony either, are you?”
“Obviously not. I will return once for the Holy Birthday.”
“If so, Christ Eurasia shall be treated as a hero whom Lastiara has fallen for at first sight. I will go back at once to report with those words.”
“That’s what I have been saying ever since I talked about him in the cathedral. Please make your exit already.”
Lastiara shooed Hein-san away, both with her mouth and her hand gesture.
The two knights chuckled at that and walked towards the 19th floor. Then, as he passed by me, Hein-san quickly muttered something to my ear.
“—I leave the lady in your care.”
His voice was tender. The tone was a complete opposite of the stately manner of speaking he used before but rather a voice of compassion that must have come from the depths of his heart. Surprised by his gentle tone, I turned to see his face.
He was smiling. His beautiful, fairy-tale-prince-grade profile accentuated that smile.
Even as a guy, I couldn’t help but admire that smile. I could only nod lightly in return.
After confirming it, Hein-san nodded back and left for the stairs leading to the 19th floor.
Once they were out of sight, Lastiara sighed as if a weight had been lifted from her shoulders.
“Phew… I didn’t think he’d wait for me down here. That was surprising for sure.”
The mask she had been wearing up until then vanished like mist, and she returned to her usual Lastiara self.
Maria, who had been watching from a step behind and was unable to swallow the situation, came up to me.
“A-are you okay, Master?”
“Yeah, I’m fine. This is nothing more than playing around.”
“Who were these people? And what is the l-lover thing about…?”
“They are people from Lastiara’s house, I think. Also, this whole lover debacle is just a huge, fat lie, so don’t mind it.”
“A lie, is it…?”
Maria stared into my eyes as she ruminated on my words. It was like she was trying to pry around the true meaning behind my words, which was useless since I had only said the facts, plain and whole.
“Yes, a lie. Whenever knights like those people appear, you can just stand back and watch us like you are watching theater, Maria.”
Maria nodded, though I wasn’t sure she was really convinced.
“More importantly, «Connection». Let’s try that magic here.”
I walked to the end of the room to set up the magic, which was our original purpose for going there. Lastiara heard what I said and came up to me, looking interested.
“Ah, the thing you talked about.”
I had already explained the magic to Lastiara on our way there. She seemed to be looking forward to seeing what the higher rank ‘Dimensional Magic’, «Connection», was all about.
“It’s quiet here and there isn’t much magic power in the air either. It’s perfect. —Magic, «Connection».”
I spent my magic power to generate the magical door. The magic had fizzled out quickly back on the 10th floor, but there on the 20th floor, the construction of the magic went swimmingly.
I had grown accustomed to the image of the construct, so I could successfully perform the magic in a considerably smaller amount of time. A magical door a few meters tall stood by the wall of the room.
“Okay, it’s a success.”
I pushed open the magical door and saw that my living room was beyond it.
“Huh, so this is the magical door~ Let me pass through. Ooh~ Amazing.”
Lastiara was amused and went back and forth through the door. Her handling of it was so rough that I had to wear down my MP to reinforce the door.
“Don’t be rough with it! The door is fragile!”
After opening and closing the door for the nth time, the door in front of me suddenly turned into a mist and vanished into thin air.
It happened just at the moment when Lastiara stepped through, leaving me behind.
“Eh. Master, isn’t this actually dangerous?”
I had no choice but to cast the magic once again. I prayed that the door on the other side hadn’t disappeared while I reconstructed the door on my side.
I could see my remaining MP was decreasing at a tremendous rate.
After which, I tried to see if the door was still connected to the house. I slowly opened it, and I saw Lastiara in a cold sweat.
“Ah, Christ. It suddenly refused to open, it scared me…”
“You destroyed it…”
“I-I did, after all? Erm… sorry.”
“Don’t sweat it. Come on, get back here.”
I pulled on Lastiara’s hand, she was looking apologetic as I did, and moved her to our side of the door.
“But why didn’t the door in the house disappear as well? It feels firm, too…”
“I poured out a lot of magic power and time to make that one—it’s obvious that it’s more complete than this one.”
“Ah, I see now.”
“Haa, that took more than half of my MP…”
“I’m really, really sorry. I’m reflecting on it.”
Lastiara looked unusually low-spirited and sullen. It was then that Maria interjected.
“If you’ve lost that much MP, why don’t we get back home for now and rest for a while? «Connection» just has to be successfully fixed in place, after all…”
Maria had a point. While the Main Road was a straight path, it still took us some time until we reached the 20th floor. Physically speaking, it was a good time to call a day.
But Lastiara wouldn’t agree with that. For her, the fun was only beginning.
“E-eeh. That’s troubling for me.”
She tripped on her words when she disagreed with the notion, to which Maria promptly counter-argued.
“Not to mention, we need to go to the church to see how much EXP we’ve accumulated. If I don’t get to a higher level, I won’t be of any use to my Master.”
“Ah, I can level you up just fine if that’s what you’re worried about. I can even play a priest role.”
“Eh, you can, Lastiara-san…? But having the man of the cloth doing it for us is much more reassuring, so…”
“No, it’s fine, it’s fine! I’m the one who leveled Christ up after all!”
Forcibly, you mean.
I recalled the forced level-up on my first day here and smiled bitterly. That expression didn’t escape Maria, and she looked at me with concern.
Even though she had laid out her own arguments, in the end, she left the decision-making authority to me. I thought about it for a while and then answered.
“Have her level you up. What she said is the truth. As for my MP, it’s not like it’s completely down to zero. We can still go, at least until my shift in the tavern. Let’s progress a bit further.”
“I see… If that’s what you say, Master…”
I took the middle way.
Maria muttered ruefully, as it seemed she was hoping we’d return home soon. Seeing her like that, Lastiara made an effort to speak to her cheerfully.
“We won’t be disturbed down here, and it’s just perfect to raise your level. Come over, Maria-chan~”
I checked Maria’s EXP and confirmed that she had accumulated enough to level up. Lastiara had a skill with similar functions to my ‘Display’, so I’d guess she could tell that too.
Maria looked a little sulky while she walked to Lastiara.
“C-come on, don’t get mad, Maria-chan. You’re leveling up, you know, level up!”
“I’m not mad.”
“Y-you are mad…”
From my position, I couldn’t see what kind of face Maria made, but I could judge from Lastiara’s expression that she was in a bad mood. After a while, a white light enveloped both Lastiara and Maria.
“Alright. You’ve leveled up~”
“Thank you very much. With this…”
Maria clasped her fist strongly.
HP: 102/102, MP: 112/112
STR: 3.42, VIT: 3.52, DEX: 2.66, AGI: 2.01, WIS: 3.55, MAG: 5.71, APT: 1.52
With her level having risen, Maria showed her gusto.
But to be frank…
The difference between her ‘Status’ and mine was just so apparent. I was only three levels higher than her, and yet there was such an overwhelming gap between our capabilities.
Name: Kanami Aikawa
HP: 350/352, MP: 221/553
STR: 6.69, VIT: 6.78, DEX: 7.74, AGI: 10.12, MAG: 24.07, APT: 7.00
Araith Household’s Treasured Sword
Maria must have not wanted to lose her place in the Labyrinth. When Maria’s face, who was happily exploring the Labyrinth with me, flashed through my mind, I became unable to say what I had to say to her.
“Master! Let us proceed. I must have gotten stronger too. This time for sure, I will…”
Both Lastiara and I could see it, so we knew. Maria couldn’t see it, thus, her bravery.
As we walked down to the 21st floor, Lastiara, who was walking behind me and Maria, covered her mouth with her hand the whole time.
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